Tanzania rejects EAC single tourist visa plan

  • Beginning January 1, 2014, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, dubbed the Coalition of the Willing (CoW), effected a single tourist visa for visitors to their destinations.
  • Samuel Sitta, Tanzania’s minister for East African Affairs said the country is unlikely to join the single visa territory any time soon.
  • Mr Sitta said so far there is no devised mechanism as to how the revenue will be shared, and hence there is no benefit for Tanzania in this arrangement.

Tanzania has ruled out joining the proposed East African single tourist visa, arguing that it is a threat to its security and economy, sparking fears about its commitment to joint projects under the trade bloc.

Beginning January 1, 2014, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, dubbed the Coalition of the Willing (CoW), effected a single tourist visa for visitors to their destinations.

A similar plan is jointly being pursued by the five EAC countries. EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera last year cited the introduction of a single tourist visa to the region, and the revival of an East African passport across the member states, as among the priorities for the trading bloc, alongside the removal of non-tariff barriers in the aviation and tourism sectors.

It is understood that Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda decided to implement the project against Tanzania’s apparent opposition to it.

Tanzanian officials have repeatedly said that they have no objection to other EAC member states holding bilateral discussions as long as they do not take decisions that are binding to the community. Tanzania has recently been accused of being slow in implementing regional agreements, informing the formation of the CoW.

According to experts, the visa is expected to increase the number of tourists visiting the region because they will now pay $100 for a 90-day multiple entry visa that takes them to all the three countries instead of $150 that was required by each country.

However, Samuel Sitta, Tanzania’s minister for East African Affairs said the country is unlikely to join the single visa territory any time soon.

“Tanzania has the largest number of tourist attractions in the region, and as of last year it had the largest number of tourists than any other East African country; under circumstance like this, how will the revenue from visa charges be shared,” said Mr Sitta on Friday.

He said Kenya has the best air transport with Jomo Kenyatta International Airport receiving four times the number of international flights compared with Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport, meaning the largest number of tourists will enter the region through Nairobi.

He said the scenarios mean that Kenya will collect all revenue from visa charges while tourists under the single visa system will enter Tanzania free of charge denying the latter a substantial amount of income.

Mr Sitta said so far there is no devised mechanism as to how the revenue will be shared, and hence there is no benefit for Tanzania in this arrangement.

Tourist arrivals

Tanzania received 6.7 million tourists between 2001 and 2012 earning the country Tsh614.38 billion ($380.3 million).

In 2012 alone, Tanzania had 945,794 tourists earning the country Tsh109, 372,608,221 ($68 million), the highest in the country’s record.

As of September 2013, tourism earned more hard currency than gold exports for the first time in several years, Central Bank data shows.

With regard to security, Mr Sitta said a single visa system will compromise Tanzania’s security because the country will be forced to surrender its control of who enters the country.

The minister said there are countries to which Tanzanian immigration has put its citizens under particular security clearance with the country’s embassies abroad, and cannot enter Tanzania until cleared.

According to Mr Sitta, those citizens do not have to go through a similar security clearance system with other East African countries, a situation that puts Tanzania at a disadvantage because under a single visa, those citizens can freely enter the country after obtaining the visa from any of the partner states.

The minister further said that allowing the use of national identification cards as travel documents would spell out the beginning of land conflicts in Tanzania.

Meeting in Kigali on December 17, 2013, the three countries adopted the use of IDs as travel documents across their borders at an experts meeting.

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda are scheduled to officially launch the use of the documents early this year at the Malaba and Katuna borders.

According to Mr Sitta, it is difficult for immigration officials to track down anyone entering the country using only IDs unlike passports which have stamps indicating when someone entered the country and when they are supposed to leave.

“Using IDs is a problem for Tanzania being the only country with the largest land in the region it means that it will also attract the largest number of people,” he said.

Mr Sitta said there is a possibility that those entering Tanzania could easily find their way into remote parts of the country and acquire land which would in turn spark major land conflicts in future.

The minister said the government of Tanzania was committed to protect its people and their resources because Tanzania is still a poor nation where land remains the only means of livelihood for its people and as such, it must be protected by all means.

Source: The East African

Published: 18/1/2014

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